Biomass: Energy Source Fact File!

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Here’s the need-to-know stuff about the energy source, biomass!

All living things and organic matter are known as biomass. The energy released from biomass when it is eaten, burnt or converted into fuels is called biomass energy. This includes wood, wood waste, straw, manure, sugar cane, and many other by-products.

Where can you find biomass?
Biomass can be found all around us.

How is it made into electricity?
Biomass can be burned to heat water and produce steam. This steam propels the blades of a turbine. This is attached to a generator, which produces electricity.

What are the advantages of using biomass?

  • It is a renewable source of energy, which means that it will not run out as long as it is replaced, for example by growing more crops or trees.
  • Although carbon dioxide is released when biomass is burned, the plants absorbed carbon dioxide when they were growing. So the only additional carbon dioxide that is emitted is from farm machinery used in the process.
  • It can use waste materials to produce electricity.
  • It supports farmers because they can sell their crops for biomass fuel.

What are the disadvantages of using biomass?

  • Burning biomass does produce some carbon dioxide gas overall, which contributes towards global warming, but in general it can be thought of as almost carbon-neutral.
  • Biomass production can encourage intensive farming and may contribute towards deforestation if new trees are not planted.
  • Growing and collecting the biomass can sometimes cause problems. It can be heavy and may need to be transported long distances.
  • If food crops are used for fuel this can make them more expensive to buy as food.

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